The first time I read Mildred Taylor was July, 2018. I’m confessing this because
1. I’m ashamed I’ve never read Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
2. I don’t remember being exposed to Mildred Taylor's books as a child.
( I don’t think this is so unheard of, and speaks to the educators who kept this piece of GOLD out of my hands.)
Early July, the previous manager of my libraries children’s department stopped in. She held a book in her hands. The book...
She went on to tell me that the label on the book was wrong. This book shouldn’t be in first chapter, even though the book is quite thin, and the words slightly larger than what you would expect to find in a chapter book.
I thanked her, took the book and immediately checked it out. I had to know why this book didn’t belong in first chapter, even though it looked like it did. A few days later, as I was winding down from another wild day of reading stories to babies, I cracked the book open.
Inside, I found a bridge to my past.
While I won’t go into the details about the book
(because I want you to read it for yourself!)
I will say to brace yourself. It’s heavy, and it should be.
So much of this book spoke to me. I grew up in Kentucky. My family is from a small, tiny town. Matter of fact, it’s the same town that Abraham Lincoln was born.
In Hodgenville, Kentucky, everyone knows everyone else, black or white. Everyone is related to everyone.
I’m also certain the descendants of the family who owned my ancestors still live in this tiny town. We still share the same last name,
it’s not too hard to figure out…
When I would visit Hodgenville as a child, and even to this day, I have never felt out of place. Hodgenville has always been a second home. There’s something about the fields and barns, and crickets at night that fill me.
It’s the place that I knew my great-grandparents, my great-grandfathers stutters, and my great-grandmothers snuff.
It’s the place that me and my cousins played outside Sunday's after church, and rocked on the front porch swing until it was time for dinner. It’s the place of so many great stories, and memories, told by my family members. But even though I never felt out of place, those around me who grew up in that town knew of a time when things weren’t so happy.
Hodgenville was a town divided. My great-grandparents lived on a street that we called, Up on the Hill. Their house was close to the top, and all white. surrounded by grass and trees. A neighbor had dogs and everyday you could hear them bark, but you also knew nothing would come running after you.
Around the house were either other family members, cousins mostly, or friends, all black. The white part of town may as well have been in a completely different state.
Way before I was born, my great-grandmother cleaned houses, and my great-aunts and grandmother would sometimes help. I have no doubt there are stories from this time in their lives that would give me chills.
I applaud Mildred Taylor for asking and remembering the stories her family passed down. There is so much richness in black culture from the stories that tend to be forgotten. There is so much history in these stories, that we will never find in any text book. These stories are the
Mildred Taylor controls language in her novels. I'm not reading a story about the past, I am there, living it.
I say Mildred Taylor is GOALS, because...um... can I get an ounce of the ability she has to bring the language of the past to life?!
One thing that I love to do is listen to my grandmother and great-aunts speak. I tell my grandmother almost everyday that she has a different saying, one I've never heard of.
My grandmother, "That's what the old folks used to say."
Me: "I swear Gran-Gran, I have never in my entire 31 years heard that saying before."
Every single day, it's something new, and I love it, even though I burst out laughing with how absurd it sounds.
Thank you, Mildred Taylor, for reminding me of my country roots, and being proud of it. The families you portray in your books are so much like mine.
While I'm embarrassed that I haven't read Mildred Taylor's books until very recently, I'm taking this time to catch up on what I've missed out on.
AND to tell the world that her books are all that, and then some...